The Henningsens

Lee and Brenda Henningsen both have a personal connection to the work being done at UNC Lineberger.

HenningsonsLee lost his first wife Karen to cancer and started giving to UNC Lineberger when a friend suggested that her friends and family donate in her memory. Brenda lost her father to cancer and both have seen good friends and siblings face the disease. Their personal connection led them to join the UNC Lineberger Board of Visitors in 1998. Lee notes, “We have been involved since the beginning of the growth period.”

Lee and Brenda have made a planned gift to UNC Lineberger, in addition to generous annual support. The couple wants their support to kick-start research. Lee notes, “Because they were never able to determine the primary source of Karen’s cancer, I want my gifts put into the early stages of research. That is where the fewest dollars get invested by other foundations and funders. Yes, early research is riskier – but the chance to help someone with a ‘eureka’ moment is worth it.”

Brenda adds, “Government grants need proof that research is promising.” The couple says they see their role in funding early stage research as akin to the role of a venture capitalist in a startup company – where their investment can be leveraged into evidence that helps get more funding from other sources.

Lee says, “A lot of people think that giving in a tax advantaged way, while accomplishing your charitable goal, is really complicated. It’s not as difficult as you think it is – any good estate planning attorney can help you set up an arrangement that meets your needs from a tax standpoint, an income standpoint (such as with a charitable remainder trust), and in terms of what you want your gift to UNC Lineberger to accomplish.” He notes that people who are going through a major life event, like selling a company, can be in a particularly good position to think about their needs and philanthropic goals.

“We give because we want to solve a problem – when you do that it is its own reward,” concludes Lee.